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Court Rules That Chalking Tires Is An Unconstitutional Search

A federal appeals court ruled Monday that chalking tires for parking enforcement violates the Fourth Amendment.

Cincinnati, OH – A federal appeals court ruled on Monday that chalking tires to identify parking infractions was a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Parking enforcement officers in some cities regularly place chalk marks on the tires of vehicles parked in limited-time parking spaces on city streets to help identify whether those vehicles have overstayed their time.

After receiving her 15th parking citation resulting from chalked tires, Alison Taylor brought suit against the city of Saginaw, Michigan, and alleged the chalking was unconstitutional, WAMU reported.

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“Trespassing upon a privately-owned vehicle parked on a public street to place a chalk mark to begin gathering information to ultimately impose a government sanction is unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment,” Taylor’s lawsuit alleged.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, which consists of a three-judge panel, unanimously agreed with Taylor’s argument, according to WAMU.

The decision effectively bans the chalking of tires in the states of Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee.

The Fourth Amendment guarantees citizens protection from “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

Judge Bernice Donald wrote in the court’s ruling that chalking tires is a form of trespass and requires a warrant, WAMU reported.

The court ruled that chalking can be considered a “search” for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment because it requires the government to physically trespass on the person’s property.

They said that, similar to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling that said a warrant was needed to place a GPS tracking device on a vehicle, the same was required to place a chalk mark on a vehicle for parking enforcement, WAMU reported.

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Law professor Orin Kerr warned serial parking violators not to begin celebrating too soon because modern technology makes the need for chalk marks obsolete, WAMU reported.

Kerr said parking enforcement officers could simply take pictures of vehicles that they’re timing in the future.

“That way parking enforcement can learn the placement of the car [without] physically marking it,” he said.

There are already several apps available that facilitate virtual chalking of tires.

Sandy Malone - April Tue, 2019

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